Saugatuck junior Carsie Walker started the Indians’ regional semifinal against Decatur and worked the first 5-1/3 innings. (Photo by Jason Wesseldyk)

Sixth-inning struggles cost Saugatuck in regional loss

Jason Wesseldyk

After sur­­r­­ender­ing four runs to Decatur in the top of the first inning during a Division 4 regional baseball semifinal on Saturday, June 11, Saugatuck came back with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame and four more an inning later.
Then, when the Raiders tied things at 5-5 with a run in the top of the fifth, the Indians again responded, scoring twice in the bottom of the frame to go up 7-5.
So when the Raiders rallied for five runs in the top of the sixth to go up 11-8, Saugatuck coach Dave Gawlak was hoping for a similar response from his team.
“When the inning was over, you just try to shake it off, flush it and come back like we did twice earlier in the game,” Gawlak said.
This time, however, the Indians weren’t able to answer back.
Saugatuck was held scoreless during the final two frames to see its season come to an end as it fell by that 11-8 score.
Decatur dropped an 8-0 decision in the regional finals to Centreville, which posted a 3-2 win over St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic in the other semifinal contest.
Carsie Walker got the start on the mound for Saugatuck. And after the shaky first inning, he settled down to allow just two runs during the next four frames.
Then came the sixth, when the combination of near 90-degree heat and a pitch count that had climbed north of 100 took its toll.
“I thought he did everything he could to get the win,” Gawlak said. “He adjusted well to the strike zone as the game went on, which is hard to do and he’s done it throughout the year, which is why he is so tough to bat against. 
“He was just running out of gas with the heat and after battling so hard throwing 108 pitches.”
So with two runners on and one out, Gawlak decided to make a pitching change, replacing Walker with staff ace Blake Dunn.
And while Dunn—who has been dominant throughout the season—ended up recording a pair of strikeouts in his 2/3 of an inning, he gave up a hit and issued three walks. That, coupled with three Saugatuck errors in the frame, led to the five runs being scored.
“I wasn’t really comfortable even when we were up 8-6,” Gawlak said. “We were not getting ahead in the count and the strike zone seemed tighter than normal, I was concerned that this could affect the rest of the game and it did to a certain extent. 
“When we let the lead-off hitter on and walked the next it made for a very uneasy feeling. What goes through my mind is how do you stop it. So we made the change on the mound and moved a few infielders around. The players seemed good and knew we just had to get outs.”
Unfortunately for Sauga­tuck, those outs weren’t recorded quickly enough.
And despite finishing with 10 hits and three walks, the Indians weren’t able to push any runs across the plate in the final two frames, thereby sealing their fate.
“After the first two innings I felt like we could score runs with the way the kids were swinging the bats,” Gawlak said “I was proud of them for not giving in and fighting back to go ahead twice in the game.”

For full story, pick up a copy of the June 16 issue of The Allegan County News or The Commercial Record or subscribe to the e-edition.

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